AlcaLu Goes Commercial With 100G

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) is no longer alone in shipping a Coherent 100-Gbit/s DWDM card, as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is announcing its own commercially available card today.

The card is for the 1830 Photonic Service Switch, the flagship DWDM box announced in 2008. (See AlcaLu Gets Tropical in the Metro.)

It's also designed to work with older Lucent DWDM boxes, the 1625 LambdaXtreme and 1626 Light Manager, but the 1830 can reach higher densities -- 500 Gbit/s per box, with each system filling one third of a rack, says Sam Bucci, AlcaLu's vice president of terrestrial networks.

AlcaLu won't consider the cards to be ready for volume shipping until the end of the month. But when asked if someone could get their hands on one today, Bucci says yes, that could be done.

The only coherent 100-Gbit/s DWDM product currently shipping comes from the former Metro Ethernet Networks (MEN) division of Nortel Networks Ltd. that's now owned by Ciena. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is using the technology on its network in Europe. (See Verizon Switches On 100G in Europe, Ciena/Nortel Product Plans Revealed, and Ciena Closes Nortel MEN Purchase.)

AlcaLu is claiming an industry first of its own, though. Its 100-Gbit/s transmission uses just one carrier wavelength. Ciena's technology uses two carriers, although the transmission occupies just one spot on the ITU DWDM grid. (See Analyst: AlcaLu's 100G Game-Changer.)

AlcaLu also says it doesn't need any guard bands -- unused portions of spectrum -- on either side of its 100 Gbit/s, thanks to proprietary tricks that the company isn't explaining in detail. Guard bands would normally be required in order to keep the 100-Gbit/s signal from interfering with neighboring 10- or 40-Gbit/s signals.

Like most of the systems vendors developing coherent 100-Gbit/s technology, AlcaLu designed the two crucial chips on its own, those being an analog/digital converter (ADC) and a digital signal processor (DSP). "Bell Labs has been working in earnest over the last -- oh, half decade or so, I'd say -- to come up with the right algorithms," Bucci says. (See 100G Watch: Components Wanted.)

The company also developed its own 100-Gbit/s optics.

AlcaLu plans to use this same coherent technology in a 40-Gbit/s card, which won't be available for a few weeks yet, but which will feature in the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) subsea network. (See AlcaLu Bags Subsea Deal.)

And it's going to keep working the chip technology to get to higher speeds.

"We're getting pinged by our customers for speeds in excess of 100 Gbit/s, from a multiplexing perspective, not just a router perspective, so we're going to continue the program," Bucci says.

Unlike Ciena, AlcaLu doesn't have any deployments to crow about yet, but the company did run a trial for Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), showing off the ability to run 100 Gbit/s alongside 10- and 40-Gbit/s wavelengths. And last week, Japanese carrier SoftBank Corp. used the 100-Gbit/s card in the tradeshow network at Interop Tokyo. (Bucci admits the show didn't need all 100 Gbit/s.)

All told, AlcaLu claims it's got about 20 carriers testing its 100-Gbit/s cards.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:32:52 PM
re: AlcaLu Goes Commercial With 100G

According to Eve Griliches of ACG, AlcaLu's Website was down today, during the time they were presenting the new product.  'Fraid there are some things 100G can't cure...

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:32:45 PM
re: AlcaLu Goes Commercial With 100G


Some clarification or additional information would be most appreciate.  In the article it states that ALU says they developed their own optical components for their 100G module.

While clear that they developed their own ADC and DSP, are you sure they developed their own optics?  And if so, which part of the optics did they develop?  If this is true it would mark a strong departure from ALU's position for the last many years of only buying their optics and not being an optical component developer.  Remember, they exited this business years ago with the spin out of Agere, which later became parts of Cyoptics, Triquint, etc.

If indeed ALU developed their own optics, this is kind of a big shift back towards vertical integration (at least for this high end application).  

this would also have strong implications for the fortunes of those merchant companies that are investing in developing and hoping to sell components.

So, in the interview, or research for the article, did anyone from LR challenge ALU on this statement?  Or at least ask them for clarification and additional information?

To make it easier, what optics are needed on a card like this?  Tunable lasers (both for TX & the RX side, for the Coherent, you need a local oscillator), Detectors / Receivers, Modulators (Mach Zehnders) including all the legs of the PM_DQPSK modulation scheme and probably some kind of pulse carver, any optical muxes (Polarization optics?), any needed optical delay lines (these could also be integrated into the modulators potentially), and maybe even a small EDFA on the line card to make up for all the loss through the modulation and muxing optics (maybe.. there are other ways to deal with this).

So, if they developed their own optics as stated, which parts of the optics did they do from the above list?  Who did the packaging?  Where was the foundry for the InP bits?  What kind of tunable laser? etc.

OR, did ALU simply spec the optics and others supplied them to ALU as per their requirements?

Some clarity and additional detail would be quite interesting and give us a bigger view into strategy and the overall market.  

Can you please dig into this?


Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:32:42 PM
re: AlcaLu Goes Commercial With 100G

Sailboat - AlcaLu claims it did all the optics itself, but I can go back and probe for more details.

Thanks for bringing this up, because I'd forgotten to mention ... the original draft of the story said the optics were developed with help from suppliers.  AlcaLu came back to me and corrected that, saying the optics were "developed 100% in-house."

So, AlcaLu seems adamant that they've done even the optics themselves, which is the impression i'd had when talking to other folks about 100G months ago.  For at least this project, it looks like it is indeed a vertical integration story.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 4:32:41 PM
re: AlcaLu Goes Commercial With 100G


Yes, please, some additional probing is in order here. Optics needed:

Tunable Lasers. ALU developed a Tunable to use?

MZI modulators: ALU developed their own Mach Zehnders? including the amplitude modulator arms, phase modulator arms, and polarization demuxing and muxing?

Detectors: ALU developed their own high speed PIN or APD or both?  Including the 90 degree hybrid for the front end of the coherent receiver?

All the chips and then the packaging of each fully qualified and ready to use?  

This would not be a small vertical integration play.  To do this would imply a fairly complete ecosystem.

Or, they are exaggerating and maybe developed one or two of the key items and had them packaged by a packaging CM.  Maybe.  Or it was an integration play.

So, going back to them and challenging them to be more clear on the spectrum of what it means to develop "all the optics" would be quite informative.

Would mean quite a lot for the suppliers of optical components as those companies make the bigger part of their margins on the high end part of their product portfolio's.

Not to say that ALU is not capable of doing this.  Bell Labs still has world class component results reported in papers annually at ECOC and OFC and IEEE conferences.  They just have not shown any interest in commercializing those results for the last 10 years.  

So if indeed as asserted they did "ALL" the optics for this application, it is a pretty big deal and more than a "small" vertical integration.  

I am guessing it is not quite "all" that they did, but maybe some key single part, like a detector or modulator or something and that it was packaged outside ALU by a partner.  Just a guess.  But if they truly did it, this is quite interesting!


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